Monday, December 6, 2010

Castle Ravenloft

What second edition Dungeons and Dragons did well was settings, and my favorite of all time has to be Ravenloft. A strange land surrounded by mist, populated with gothic villains from Dracula to Hill House to the Alien Queen, where every town seems to belong in a Hammer Horror movie and every wicked deed leads you further down the path to becoming a monster yourself. Thanks to the evil god Vecna in-game (and a few changes of edition in the real world), the D&D universe has changed a great deal since those days. However, I'm happy to report that Ravenloft has managed to sneak into a fourth edition boardgame (or at least, one of its most iconic villains has!)

Castle Ravenloft is the boardgame I always wanted in my teenage years when I had no one to try out roleplaying games with (my third edition D&D boardgame still sits sadly unused.) Not only can you play it by yourself, but it's simple enough that it can be used to ease the uninitiated into the complicated world of D&D, or enjoyed for its own sake as a fun adventure game. I also appreciate the fact that its makers have taken into account problems in traditional dungeons games- you can no longer huddle on a single square, safe from monsters but refusing to advance the blot, or you'll trigger an Event Card, typically deadlier than most of the monsters themselves.

What plot the game has is as follows: You (and possibly your friends) are adventuring into the castle of the wicked vampire Strahd van Zarovich. There are several adventures with different goals to choose from: Kill the monsters. Talk down the golem. Save a boy from vampirism. Or even take down Strahd himself- and trust me, by the time you've wandered through his castle full of traps and pet zombies, your health points draining every time he appears from the shadows to hurl a fireball at you and then vanish, you'll want the guy dead too.

Possibly the most fun for my playgroup was the slow hatred we built up for Strahd. With each Encounter Card, his whole damn castle proved more and more intent on murdering us. Everything was out to get us, and when we finally managed to put down Strahd and his zombie dragon, it felt like a victory well earned.

And as a bonus, here's an Encounter Card we were expecting to pop up any second:

Marked By Strahd for Death
The player holds on to this card- not the character, the player. Keep it after the game is over. Strahd is waiting for you...

No comments:

Post a Comment